Imatges de pàgina

were laid up there for our father Adam's debt. This debt brought all mankind into the prison, Rom. v. 12, " Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” The covenant being broken, we became liable to pay the penalty, and, being unable to relieve ourselves, were shut up in prison under the wrath and curse of God. They are also arrested there for their own debt, contracted in their own persons. Every sinful thought, word, or action, is a new item in our accounts. And at the instance of every broken commandment, the law arrests the natural man in the prison, clapping its curse upon the sinner; so that the longer one remains in his natural state, there is always the less hope of his delivery. Nay, his delivery is impossible, till the Cautioner loose all the arrests by paying the whole debt.

(2.) They are in prison as malefactors condemned in law; Jobn iii. 18, “He that believeth not is condemned already.” There is a sentence of death passed upon all men in a natural state, they are condemned to die eternally; and therefore are committed to the jailor, to keep them in the prison to the day of execution, which they know not how soon it may be appointed, how soon death may lead out the prisoner to have the sentence fully executed upon him. I go on to,

Quest. 3. In what condition are natural men as prisoners in this their natural state? Their condition is most dismal; for,

(1.) They are under the wrath of God, as the malefactor put in prison is under the wrath of his judge. Hence it is said, Eph. ii. 3, And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others." A natural state is a state of wrath. God bears a legal enmity against thee as long as thou art out of Christ. There is a black cloud of wrath which always hovers over the head of the natural man, and never will scatter till he be a new creature. God is ever angry, never pleased with him ; Psalm vii. 11, “ God is angry with the wicked every day." His person is not acceptable to God; Psalm v. 5, “ The foolish shall not stand in his sight, and he hateth all the workers of iniquity.” Nor are his performances acceptable to God, Isa. lxvi. 3. God will have no communion nor fellowship with him; Amos iii. 3,“ Can two walk together except they be agreed ?" There is wrath in his word, his looks, and dispensations towards him.

(2.) They are both under the dominion of the law, and also under the lash of it; Gal. iii. 10, “ For as many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse, for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them." It has him as fast in its hands as ever a prisoner was. It has him by the neck, saying, Pay what thou owest; and will never quit the hold through the ages of eternity, unless he get the Surety that is able to take it off his hand. Its demands are high, quite above his reach; perfect satisfaction for what is past; perfect obedience for what is to come. It is a merciless creditor, and will abate thee nothing. As long as thou art in its power, (and that is as long as thou art in this prison), thou must lay thy account with the payment of the utmost farthing. What though the sentence is not speedily executed ? a reprieve is no pardon; Deut. xxxii. 35.

(3.) They are under the power of Satan, as the keeper of the prison, Acts xxvi. 18. He has a commanding and a restraining power over them, 2 Tim. ii. 26, “ They are in the snare of the devil, and taken captive by him at his will.” They cannot move out without the bounds of his jurisdiction, more than the prisoner out of the dungeon. It is true, Satan keeps not all alike close, some have the liberty of the form of godliness, on account of which they reckon themselves secure as to the goodness of their state, and by this delusion they are held the faster in his hands.

(4.) They are in a most uncomfortable condition. If a person was in a palace as a prison, it would be uncomfortable; far more in this case, the pit wherein is no water has nothing to refresh the soul; Zech, ix. 11. It is true, most natural men are stupid, they consider it not; they are blind, and they see not the shadow of death about them. But when once their eyes are opened, there is no more rest for them there; they cry, " What shall we do to be saved ?” They see the filthy prison-garments of unmortified, unpardoned sins about them, which they can no longer wear at ease. The scanty allowance of the prisoner's diet, unblessed mercies, which can serve for nothing but to keep in the wretched life till the day of execution.

(5.) They have no security for a moment's safety; but if their eyes were opened, they would see themselves every moment in hazard of dropping into the pit of hell; see the natural man's case, Psalm vii. 11-16. He is ever standing before God's bent bow, and has nothing to secure him for a moment from the drawing of it. He is condemned already, and the sentence is past; no day known for the execution, uncertain but every day the dead-warrant may be given out against him, and he led forth to execution. What can he see to put it off, but long abused patience which will wear out at length ?

(6.) They are so secured, that they can never get away without satisfaction for their debts and crimes. There is no breaking this prison. Sooner may bars of iron and gates of brass be got over,



than a prisoner can get out of the state of wrath without satisfying the demands of the law. And therefore the sinner will die in this prison, if he come not to Christ. There is no getting out of this pit but by the blood of the covenant.

For the improvement of this part of the subject, 0! sirs, be concerned to look to the state of sin in this glass, and be ye duly affected with it, as the matter requires. Consider, sinner, where you are, and in what condition. Is the state of sin a prison-state? Then who are the men that walk at liberty? Is it not these whose consciences are purged by faith in Christ, whose guilt is removed, who walk after the Spirit, and lead a holy, heavenly, circumspect life? Or is it those who, scorning to be bound up to the rules of a holy walk, can stretch their consciences at their pleasure, and take to themselves a sinful liberty, which others dare not for their souls, who can laugh at those things for which others mourn, and follow their lusts to the ruin of their souls ? Truly no. All that sinful liberty which those do take, and all the pleasures which they have in it, is but the rattling of the chains of the devil's prisoners, while they go up and down in their prison. 'Is the state of sin a state in which ye can quietly sleep another night? It is a Sodom on which fire and brimstone will come down. Haste ye, and escape for your life. Ah! sinner, canst thou be at ease in a state of wrath? The world, it may be, smiles upon thee; it may be that it frowns; but what of either of these, while God is angry with thee every day? Thou hast perhaps something for many years for thy body, it may be nothing; but what security hast thou for thy soul, when death shall call thee hence, thou knowest not how soon? Is the work of conversion to God a slight business, about which persons are under small necessity to trouble their heads ? Surely it is a most weighty business, which, if it be not done, there is nothing at all done for eternity. Let men in an unconverted state put on what appearances of religion they will, perform what duties they will, they are but dead works, wrought in Satan's prison, and leave the worker in a state of death. Turn, turn ye, then, from your sins unto God, cry for regenerating sanctifying grace, rest not till you get it. Will you not eagerly embrace the offer made you in the proclamation of opening the prison to those that are bound ? Christ is come to your prison door, offering by his blood and Spirit to set you free. Are you willing to come away? or are you so in love with your prison as not to care for deliverance? We are,

II. To mention the bands, chains, and fetters, with which unconverted sinners are bound in the prison of a natural state. These are twofold, God's and Satan's. There are,

1. God's bands, for they are his prisoners; and these are heavier than the heaviest irons ever were on prisoners; for,

(1.) There are bands of guilt and the curse on them all, by which the law binds them over to wrath, Gal. iii. 10. Guilt is a bond binding over the sinner to deserved punishment. The curse of the law devotes him to destruction. These, worse than iron fetters, enter into the soul; and while they lie on persons, they cannot stir out of the prison, nor make their escape. No sooner is the soul awakened to feel them, than it feels them heavier than can be borne.

(2.) There are the bands of judicial hardness on some. Those with whom the Lord has been long dealing, who will not hear, but harden themselves against calls, warnings, and reproofs; many times the Lord judicially hardens them, makes hardness of heart their punishment, as it is their sin ; recalls the motions of his Spirit, Hos. iv. 17, "Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone." He gives them over, saying, “He that is unjust, let him be anjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still,” Rev. xxii. 11; he gives them up to their own lusts, Psalm lxxxi. 12, “So I gave them up unto their own hearts' Just; and they walked in their own counsels ;” and he gives them up to Satan to harden them, 2 Cor. iv. 4, “ He hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” So that under the most softening means they grow worse and worse,'harder and harder, Isa. vi. 9, 10. These are fearful bands: but besides these there are,

2. The devil's bands, which he puts on his prisoners in their natural state, to secure them, that they may not come out of it to Christ, may not be converted, may not be turned from their sins unto God. These are many; such as,

(1.) The band of prejudices. These are so fixed on natural men, that Jesus says, Matth. xi. 6, “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.” Satan dresses up religion and true holiness in such a monstrous shape, that they are affrighted at it, they cannot wish it, they can never get a heart to it; and therefore they entertain Christ's message, as Nabal did David's, 1 Sam. xxv. 11, Shall we, say they, give up with that pleasant or profitable way, in which we are, and betake ourselves to a way that must needs be a continual weariness? This is a strong band, but when the eyes are opened, and God's ways are tried in earnest, it would break like an untwined thread; Prov. iii. 17, “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Come and see. There is,

(2.) The band of ill company. Satan does as the Romans did with some of their prisoners, he binds his prisoners together, so that one helps to hold fast another, to their ruin ; Prov. xiii. 20, “A companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Thus there are bundles of drunkards, swearers, Sabbath profaners, despisers of what is good, worldlings, to whom the world is the chief good; and every one of the bundle is a snare to the soul of another. With an eye to this is the terrible sentence given, Matth. xiii. 30,“ Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.” Therefore is the gospel-invitation, Prov. ix. 5, 6, “ Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live, and go in the way of understanding." There is,

(3.) The band of earthly-mindedness. This held them fast who were bidden to the gospel-supper, Luke xiv. 16—20. The wretched world had its bands on every one of them, so that they could not stir to come. They must look to this and the other business, that they do not lose their advantage ; and while the devil's servant is thus busy here and there, looking well to this and that, the immortal soul, with the keeping of which God charges him, is lost. The pleasures of the world, like syren songs, arrest them like iron fetters covered with silk ; these secure them. The cares of the world, like a thicket, entangle them, they cannot get leisure for them to mind their souls; and the weary earth ever interposing betwixt them and the Sun of Righteousness, they are thus kept in a dark prison. There is,

4. The band of unbelief. This is such an one as no less than the arm of the Lord can take off; Isa. liii. 1,“ Who hath believed our report ? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ?" Men hear the word, but they do not believe it; they believe not the doctrine of the gospel, they count it foolishness, 1 Cor. i. 23. The promises they do not believe, they count them but fair words, and will not quit their certainty in a sinful course for the hope of them, Heb. iv. 1, 2, 11. The threatenings they consider as mere scarecrows, and in spite of them promise themselves peace ; Deut. xxix. 19, “ And it shall come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst." They believe not their need of Christ, and therefore they slight and reject him. There is,

5. The band of slothfulness. This ties down the natural man in his prison-bed, saying, Prov. vi. 10, “ Yet a little sleep, yet a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” It hangs so heavy upon his legs, that he cannot move them in the way of God; Prov. xxvi. 13, “ The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way." "A

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